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Should I use "the" in the following sentence or not? Are they both grammatical? If yes, what difference does it create?

Here's the example:

  • These are (the) people who were present there when the accident happened.

To me it seems that If I don't use "the" it means there were other people who were present at the time of the accident besides them. They are not the only ones who were present there. I am not sure. Please explain.

I have found many examples on the internet where in contexts like this I have seen sometimes the is used sometimes not.

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You are right with your assumption:

To me it seems that If I don't use "the" it means there were other people who were present at the time of the accident besides them. They are not the only ones who were present there.

The word 'the' is a definite article. In this case, using 'the' before the noun 'people' makes it (the noun) unique. It makes clear that those people (and only those people) have something in common: they were present when the accident happened.

Further reading: https://www.ef.com/english-resources/english-grammar/definite-article/

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